WITH MALDIVES President Abdulla Yameen refusing to implement court orders to release political leaders from custody and reinstate 12 Opposition MPs in parliament, the Indian High Commission in Male has conveyed to New Delhi that the apex judiciary in the island nation is being intimidated by the government.
“We have been in touch with various stakeholders in Male. What we have gathered is that the judges are being intimidated. The top judges are maintaining their calm, as the Chief Justice has been standing by them. Some diplomats have been able to speak to them,” sources told The Indian Express.
New Delhi is also in touch with envoys from other countries who have concurrent accreditation in Maldives, said sources, adding that they are assessing the situation to decide the next steps to be taken.
On Monday, the Maldives Supreme Court rejected letters from President Yameen, asking it to revoke its decision ordering the release of several jailed political leaders, a ruling party leader said.
Yameen, in three separate letters to Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed, said the Supreme Court had failed to provide a solution to concerns raised by the chief prosecutor. This, he said, sets dangerous legal precedents.
In a letter read out by Legal Affairs Minister Azima Shakoor on state television, Yameen also argued that the court’s order, if implemented, threatens the entire justice system and the constitution.
“So in light of the said concerns, I believe that the order to release the jailed prisoners cannot be enforced in accordance with the constitution, the judicial process,” Maldives President said, asking the Chief Justice to “reconsider”.
The Prosecutor General (PG) of Maldives had submitted its concerns to the Supreme Court on Saturday separately on each case citing “legal and judicial” precedents.
The Supreme Court, however, rejected the concerns saying there were no legal or judicial reasons that would prevent authorities from implementing the order. “As referred to in the order, there is nothing preventing the prosecutor general from seeking a re-trial after the order has been implemented,” the Maldives Supreme Court said in a statement.
In addition to former president Mohamed Nasheed, the other political leaders named in the order included Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla, former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor and deposed ruling party leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s lawmaker son Faris Maumoon.
The others named in the order included former prosecutor general Muhthaz Muhsin, magistrate Ahmed Nihan and Adheeb’s brother-in-law Hamid Ismail.
The reinstatement of the 12 lawmakers disqualified by the country’s elections commission would mean the united opposition would have the majority in parliament, or Majlis, with power to impeach the President.
“This possibility has rattled the Yameen government and that is the reason they do not want to implement the order. The Supreme Court verdict, in a way, means transfer of power,” said a leader from MDP, which is led by Nasheed.
Referring to the Supreme Court judges being pressured, British envoy James Dauris tweeted, “I spoke today to #Maldives CJ Saeed. He said that neither his nor any other judge’s signature was forged. He told me about the great pressure judges are under. It is in the fundamental interests of every Maldivian that the independence of the judiciary is respected & supported.”
On Sunday, the Opposition MPs signed a resolution, calling on the international community to impress upon the Maldives government the need to respect the rule of law, and implement last Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling.
The 37 signatories to the resolution are all members of the joint Opposition coalition, which opposes President Yameen’s rule. While Gasim Ibrahim was unable to sign the resolution because he is in exile in Germany, three other MPs are in jail. Other opposition MPs are currently abroad, said sources.